Since the season ended for the Miami Dolphins, it seems the team’s biggest question is are they going to look for another quarterback to replace their top pick from last year, Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa had his ups and downs as a rookie in 9 starts and was benched twice, but people seem to forget he’s only a rookie. I get the fact that fellow rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, drafted after the Dolphins, had a better rookie season statistically throwing for 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions with a 66% completion percentage compared to Tagovailoa’s 1,814 yds passing with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions with a 64% completion percentage. Statistics can be blown way out of proportion, but in the NFL today, it’s about offense and scoring points. Most people think the Dolphins got it wrong by picking Tagovailoa over Herbert based on what they saw this year, but people have to understand they are both rookies, and everyone develops differently.

Look at the 4 quarterbacks in the Championship games this week; most of them didn’t play their rookie seasons. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers didn’t play their rookie years. In fact, Rodgers had to wait 3 years to see the field because he was behind Brett Favre. Brady came in after quarterback Drew Bledsoe got hurt, and the rest is history. Patrick Mahomes sat on the bench his rookie season except for the season finale in which he started after the Kansas City Chiefs had their playoff seeding secured. After the season, the Chiefs moved on from incumbent Alex Smith to pave the way for Mahomes. Mahomes’ teammate Tyrek Hill came out recently on Inside the NFL and said Mahomes rookie season he was trash. Obviously, he got better since his rookie season. Josh Allen of these quarterbacks got to start significant games during his rookie season. Allen has a big arm, but his other mechanics were raw. In his rookie season, he started 11 games and threw for 2,074 yards with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a 52% completion percentage. Not exactly overwhelming better than Tagovailoa’s rookie season, but Allen was given time to grown and last year, they made the playoffs and now are one game away from the Super Bowl.

There are a few things people have to remember about Tagovailoa’s rookie season. He was coming off a broken hip injury, and last year at this time, he was rehabbing and didn’t have a real offseason to work on his game. At this time last year, he was walking with crutches. Most broken hip injuries take years to get better, if at all. Tagovailoa was ready for training camp, and even play this year is a modern-day medical miracle. This offseason, he will have a chance to work on his mechanics, such as his footwork, get stronger in the weight room, and other things, whereas last year, he couldn’t do that. If you want to criticize that he shouldn’t have played because incumbent Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing well, then criticize head coach Brian Flores for that.

The other thing about Tagovailoa is he doesn’t have a lot of weapons around him, whereas Herbert has 2 legitimate starting wide receivers and an all-around tight end. That can help you out a lot. Tagovailoa’s receivers can’t create separation, and he has to throw it in tight windows. Tagovailoa has to play better, and he has to learn this isn’t college where everyone was open, but at the same time, the quarterback can’t do it by himself. His longest pass this year was 35 yards; that’s been a big criticism, and some of his deep passes were dropped. One example of this in the Cincinnati Bengals game, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense was backed up inside their own 10-yard line, and he threw a deep pass on the money to Jakeem Grant, and the ball went through his hands. If Grant caught it, it could have been a potential 90-yard touchdown. His current receivers are number 3 or 4 receivers on any NFL at best. The team needs to get him better players. This year, the Buffalo Bills went out and got a number one receiver for Allen in Stefon Diggs. One of Allen’s biggest criticisms going into this year was he hadn’t thrown for over 300 yards in 27 starts. This year with Diggs’ arrival, Allen threw for over 300 yards 8 times, and the Bills have one of the best passing attacks in the NFL. If the Dolphins can acquire some receivers that can make game-changing plays, like Diggs, maybe we can see Tagovailoa reach his potential.

Tagovailoa has to improve in many areas of his game, no question about it. He has to work on his footwork, the speed of the game, how to trust his receivers and take chances. That comes with more experience, and while younger quarterbacks, like Herbert, come into the NFL and don’t have the big learning curve as years ago, but still, we have to remember it’s an adjustment and everyone develops differently, and circumstances for each quarterback are different. Rodgers, Brady, and Mahomes came into situations where they didn’t have to play right away because there was an entrenched starter. Allen wasn’t the starter right away for the Bills, but their starting quarterback wasn’t as strong, and the Bills were in a rebuilding mode; they had nothing to lose right away starting him. I know die-hard Dolphins fans, like myself, are looking for the next franchise quarterback and have been waiting a long time since Dan Marino retired 20 years ago. It’s been a long, frustrating two decades, and the fact that our hated division rival has found one makes it even more frustrating, but we have to give Tagovailoa time and have some patience with him. I think his injury from a year ago people forget that, and it shouldn’t be overlooked because he didn’t benefit from working on his game, like Herbert and the other quarterbacks from his class did. The Dolphins also have to do their part and surround him with more talent to help him reach his potential, so it’s a two-way street both have to do their jobs this offseason.

We can’t judge a rookie quarterback after one year; if we did, none of the quarterbacks in the Championship games this weekend would be where they are. Players develop differently, especially at the quarterback position. I’m a big believer in developing a player from year 1 to year 2. You should see better development next year, especially with a full off-season program. The Dolphins can look for someone to push Tagovailoa if they want to. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in another player to push Tagovailoa, but we should also give him a break and a chance to grow.